Municipal court employees reprimanded for mishandling food bank donations
Employee claims supervisors knew of plan to take meals off-site
SAN ANTONIO – Two San Antonio Municipal Court employees received written reprimands last year after a city investigation determined that they mishandled donated meals intended for children.
The employees, identified as juvenile court case managers Araceli Delgado and Desiree Vitale, admitted to violating food distribution protocols, which included taking lunches to a satellite court that was not registered with the San Antonio Food Bank, according to city records.
The investigation, conducted by the city's Office of Municipal Integrity, also determined that Delgado and Vitale did not properly hand out meals and instead disbursed food and drinks one item at a time.
The employees were also found to have distributed meals to families that were not eligible to receive them.
A city spokesman previously said some of the meals were given to the families of children who had previously taken part in juvenile court programs.
Municipal Court was one of more than 200 locations to receive meals as part of the San Antonio Food Bank's Summer Meals Program. The program was created to help school-age children in San Antonio receive a meal when they are not in school.
The city's investigation, however, did not address several pictures obtained by the KSAT 12 Defenders that showed unopened food bank meals in large trash bags.
The pictures were provided in July by a city court employee who asked to remain anonymous.
"We have not been able to verify when, where or by whom the photo was taken in order to investigate the circumstances. In speaking with the case managers who oversee the program, they have indicated they follow the protocol required by the Food Bank regarding the disposal of expired food and that the photo in question does not display how they have been trained or how they dispose of expired food," said Municipal Court Clerk Fred Garcia in a written statement.
San Antonio Food Bank President and CEO Eric Cooper called the pictures of meals in the trash heartbreaking during an interview in September.
KSAT 12 reached out to Cooper for comment regarding this story but was told by his assistant that he has been traveling the past couple of weeks.
"It would appear to me written reprimands may not go far enough," said District 6 City Councilman Greg Brockhouse, whose West Side district is home to the food bank.
City records show that both Delgado and Vitale refused to sign their written reprimands.
Vitale appealed the reprimand, telling Garcia in an email in November that she had never been written up and that she transported meals to the satellite court after being directed to by her supervisor, Alicia Trujillo.
Garcia said in a written statement that the city has not "been able to substantiate the claim of Ms. Trujillo's involvement."
Vitale also said in an email that she was concerned The Defenders would be able to request the disciplinary action taken against her. Vitale went on to write that a second supervisor, Victor Vinton, went as far as to provide a refrigerator for meals to be stored at the satellite court.
Garcia last month upheld Vitale's reprimand, according to city records.
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